It started at three in the morning, like all stomach viruses seem to.
When my 4-year-old daughter barfed in her bed that night, I was immediately filled with panic and dread. I got her cleaned up and back to sleep quickly, then set to work washing the sheets and dirty princess PJs.
I knew the virus had been making the rounds in her classroom and that it wasn’t serious, so I wasn’t particularly concerned about her health. These things happen with little kids, you know? But what really worried me was knowing I’d be stuck in the house for the next two days. There’d be no escape.
Sick days were my worst nightmare.
I guess you could say that I’m an extreme Type A mom — always on the go. I wake up in the morning with a plan of how my day is going to look, and I tend to be one of those people who always has to fill every waking hour with some sort of activity.
I can’t help it; I get bored easily. I seek adventure and I’ll admit that sometimes, as a parent, I feel like a bad mom if we find ourselves with free time to sit around and watch TV. Because lazy people do that, right? Kids need stimulation, challenges, exercise, and varied experiences!
The first day we slept in until 10 o’ clock in the morning. I felt like Rip Van Winkle by the time we finally got out of bed. I’d slept so long that it felt like 20 years had gone by, and I realized that I hadn’t slept that late since the day before my daughter was born — and that was five years ago.
What was this strange sensation, I wondered? Then I remembered: this is how it felt to be well-rested.
Since the little one was still feeling pretty puny, I set her up a comfy nest on the living room couch, made her some chamomile tea, and put on her favorite Disney movie.
“Cuddle with me, Mommy,” she said, and I was happy to oblige.
For the next hour and a half, we stay curled up under the blankets like a mama cat and her warm fuzzy kitten, and I loved every delicious second of holding my sick girl.
I forgot that I had work to do, errands to run, and a kitchen floor that probably needed mopping. I forgot that we were going to miss hip-hop dance class and the kids’ night at our favorite restaurant.
When the movie ended, she asked me to tell her about when I was a little girl. She loves when I tell her about my adventures growing up in the country.
“Did you have phones back in the olden days, Mommy?” she asked.
“Um, yes, Baby, we had phones in the ’80s — but they were attached to a cord in the wall and we couldn’t bring them outside of the house with us.”
She was flabbergasted and had a million more questions which I gladly answered. Before long another hour had passed, an hour in which my daughter had my full and complete attention, something that she deserved.
I thought to myself that we don’t do this often enough. Sure, I spend most of my time with her, but a lot of that time has us engaged in activities — rushing, moving. We have plenty of fun, but what if she doesn’t need quite so much to do all the time? What if what she needs is for me to stop more often and teach her stillness and how to be present?
Maybe, I came to understand, my child doesn’t need constant outside entertainment. Maybe my making time for us both to rest and connect through simply talking to one another would be even more fulfilling than a harvest festival, a painting class, or an hour in a bounce house.
Our conversation turned into a long, leisurely nap (an actual nap!) and we woke up in time for more movies, more cuddles, and more conversation. I was still in my pajamas as I warmed up some chicken soup and poured her a cup of ginger ale.
“Are you feeling better?” I asked.
Her fever had broken and she wasn’t puking anymore. Her eyes looked a little brighter and she smiled.
I kept her home from school another day, and by the second evening she was back to her old chipper self, jumping on the bed instead of barfing in it, thank goodness.
The next morning, as I drove her to school, she mentioned to me that she had really loved staying home and having a sick day with me. I told her I liked it too, and after I dropped her off and pulled out of the preschool parking lot, I was calmer and more refreshed than I’d probably felt in years — the result of taking the time to just do nothing.
My daughter’s stomach bug (which thankfully was very mild) forced me to slow down for a couple days. It had given me the gift of rest and showed me that my daughter needs me, as her mom, to stop and clear our schedule so that we can reconnect with each other and ourselves when we’re healthy as well as when we’re under the weather.
It’s okay, good even, to make lots of room for downtime. I needed to learn this, to finally understand that staying home doesn’t automatically equal laziness.
No one loves when their children aren’t feeling well. It’s awful to see them suffer even a little, but I have to say that I’m thankful for the unexpected respite this virus brought us and for the valuable lesson it taught me about the healing embrace of stillness.More On